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Mar 20, 2014 05:46 AM EDT

Researchers Discover New ‘Chicken from Hell’ Dinosaur; Lived Along T-Rex 66 Million Years Ago


Scientists from Carnegie and Smithsonian museums and the University of Utah discovered a new bird-like feathered dinosaur following the analysis of three different fossil skeletons. All three partial skeletons of the ferocious dinosaur were retrieved from the uppermost level of the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota. When the researchers joined the three fossils together, they found that the separate parts formed a nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur.

Nicknamed the 'chicken from hell,' the 500-pound, 11-foot long dinosaur roamed the Dakotas with the most fearsome predator T. rex, 66 million years ago.

"It was a giant raptor, but with a chicken-like head and presumably feathers. The animal stood about 10 feet tall, so it would be scary as well as absurd to encounter," University of Utah biology postdoctoral fellow and co-author of the study, Emma Schachner said in a press release.

The sharp-clawed, beaked dinosaur is officially named Anzu wyliei - Anzu after a bird-like demon in Mesopotamian mythology, and wyliei after the dinosaur-loving grandson of a Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh trustee.

"I am really excited about this discovery because Anzu is the largest oviraptorosaur found in North America," Schachner said. "Oviraptorosaurs are a group of dinosaurs that are closely related to birds and often have strange, cassowary-like crests on their heads."

Schachner said that Anzu is one of the youngest oviraptorosaurs ever known, meaning that it lived close to the dinosaur extinction event.

Resembling the gigantic flightless bird Ostrich, Anzu wyliei had a slender neck and hind legs. The dinosaur species was almost 5 feet tall at the hip and weighed 440 to 660 pounds approximately. The researchers believe Anzu was an omnivore that depended on vegetation, small animals and eggs for survival. The fearsome beast lived on wet flood plains and apparently suffered injuries due to fights.

The finding is published online in PLOS ONE, a journal of the Public Library of Science.

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